Genre Exploration: Afraid of non-fiction?

Welcome to another installment of my Genre Exploration series, where I discuss genres I don’t normally pick up, define them, talk about their classics and new releases, recommend books and authors, and much more.

I had left this feature a little unattended, but it’s finally back. Today I want to have a little discussion on non-fiction books, mention my favorite subgenres and give out some recommendations. Most readers I know pick up very few non-fiction books during the year. Some don’t even read this genre at all. I also have a hard time reaching out for this genre and veer more towards fiction. So it left me wondering: are we afraid of non-fiction? 

I don’t think we are exactly afraid of it, but when we read we usually want to forget the real world for a while and focus on places we’ve never be to and characters that go through incredible adventures. For that reason, reading a non-fiction book is too close to reality for some of us. It could even feel like a task if you are not interested in the subject matter or the style it was written in. But, as with every genre, I do believe there are plenty non-fiction books that anyone can enjoy. The trick is to look for the right topics.

We can learn a lot with non-fiction books, but we can also have a lot of fun with them. Sometimes I forget they are not all serious! And the ones that really are serious are not boring. I’ve picked up a few non-fiction books the last couple of years and I’ve really enjoyed them, so hopefully they’ll interest you as well. But, before going over my recommendations, I wanted to discuss a little about some subgenres. With this I hope I can highlight how diverse the non-fiction genre is and why I believe anyone can enjoy it.

Subgenres

If you think about it, non-fiction subgenres are really endless. If you go to its Goodreads page, you can see a list of over 40 subgenres listed. Among these are art, criticism, self-help, religion, education, cookbooks, parenting, and social issues, to name a few. But, I wanted to talk about my two favorites. These are usually listed as genres by themselves, but they belong to the non-fiction category:

  • Memoirs: people telling their stories, how they’ve succeeded or failed, how they overcame a terrible situation or simply how they got to be in the place they are now is something that I love to read from time to time. Sometimes I pick up some from celebrities and other times from people who aren’t that well-known. They always teach me something and I learn a new perspective.
  • True Crime: this is a tough one. Reading about some people’s horrifying acts doesn’t seem like an enjoyable way to spend our time, but trust me when I say that reading True Crime books brings a lot to the table. Not only does this subgenre open our eyes to the injustices in the world, but it also shows how our society works. I’ve learned about the flaws in the criminal justice systems of Italy, the United States and Japan, as well as how insidious and pervasive discrimination, racism and misogyny truly are.

Recommendations

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Princesses Behaving Badly: Real Stories from History—without the Fairy-Tale Endings by Linda Rodríguez McRobbie

Topics: History | Biography | Feminism

Although I don’t recommend reading story after story and I believe the research behind it is arguably lacking, I loved reading about some real badass princesses from all around the globe! Women’s history has been erased or hidden, so books like this which highlight characters that were so important in battle or the history of their kingdoms are very valuable.


 

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The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell

Topics: Memoir | Film | Humor

If you don’t know the film The Room, please go watch some of its best scenes. This book is Sestero’s memoir, the actor playing Mark in the emblematic film starred, directed and written by Tommy Wiseau. It’s both an insight into the ups and downs of Sestero’s career in the film industry and his rocky friendship with Wiseau, who is an incredibly intriguing (and frustrating) person. The writing is great and the stories are truly compelling, funny, touching and even a bit sad. I believe it’s become one of my favorite books.


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Red Azalea by Anchee Min

Topics: Memoir | Chinese culture/history | LGBT+

This is the story of Anchee Min and her experience growing up during the Cultural Revolution and the last years of Mao’s ruling. It was tough reading this one for two reasons: the horrible reality that she faced is terrifying and the writing style is a little off-putting at times. If you’re not that  interested in the topics at hand, I wouldn’t recommend it to you because the writing is very choppy and tends to lacks cohesiveness. Nevertheless, I appreciated it because it is Min’s voice and I got used to the style as I read along. I valued her honesty and I couldn’t stop reading.


 

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The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Marion Spezi

Topics: True Crime | Italian criminal justice system

The Monster of Florence was a brutal killer of couples who was never caught, an incredibly frustrating fact to know when you’re reading a true crime book and are disgusted by the killer’s actions. He was the inspiration behind Thomas Harris’ most famous character: Hannibal Lecter. But what amazed me about this story was how the authors became targets of the police investigation. It shows the inefficiency of the criminal justice system and how any place in the world can be striken by tragedy.

Are you afraid of this genre or do you like it? Share your non-fiction recommendations!

 

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35 thoughts on “Genre Exploration: Afraid of non-fiction?

  1. I love reading non-fiction, but only about topics or by authors that I like. I highly recommend Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, any of Mindy Kaling’s books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow.
    Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly, that’s really important, to pick up things that really call to us. I added Modern Romance to my TBR just this weekend, it sounds amazing and I’m glad you enjoyed it. Hamilton’s also on my TBR 😀 The others sound great too, thank you!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t read nonfiction because made-up stories are always better for me. I tried several times with true crime but I prefer fictional mysteries. Although I need to read a memoir!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this post! I read a bit of non-fiction myself but tend to choose memoirs over anything, and I try not to read anything too dark? Like true crime I think will be a bit too heavy for me, because I mainly read for pleasure.

    That being said, I’d second Holly’s rec for Modern Romance and Mindy Kaling’s books! I also really liked Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (funny memoir) and Nothing to Envy (collection of true stories from North Korea, a subject I generally gravitate towards). I recently finished I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends, too, which is a memoir by a Bachelor contestant. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for all those recommendations! ❤
      I understand what you mean by dark. I handle dark themes pretty well, but I once picked up a true crime book that featured kids as victims and had to stop. I couldn't keep going, it made me sick. It's a tough genre because of that.

      Like

  4. This is a great post! I enjoyed reading your thoughts about this topic. ☺
    I definitely have to expand my varitey of genres.
    I do love reading travel books, I’ve read a couple of them so far. And I also enjoy reading memoirs and autobiography’s. ☺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 That’s so nice, I have a few travel books, but I usually just look at the pictures and daydream I’m there :P. Is there a particular memoir or autobiography that you would recommend?

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  5. I love reading history! Also travel. There are so many amazing travel books out there, like Patrick Leigh Fermor’s trilogy, which starts with A Time of Gifts. At 18, in 1933, he started walking across Europe with Constantinople as his goal….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s incredible, I don’t know any travel books of that sort, so it’s good to know! The only history one that I own is a Second World War one, so if you have any recommendations for that, I would love to hear them. I forgot to mention in the post that I love art books. I own many related to Vincent van Gogh because I’ve always loved his work and his life has interested me.

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      1. Well, hum, I have a good few travel books on my blog… I tell you what, here is the link to my list of posts, and travel just happens to be the first category. It’s only updated to May, though. You could also click on the travel tag, but that will cover more recent reads, and not the ones I read before I figured out useful tagging. I need to go back through and fix those… http://howlingfrog.blogspot.com/p/index-of-reviewed-books.html

        Liked by 1 person

  6. There are a few nonfiction books that I’ve picked up, but they’re usually the ones that are the most dramatic. I empathize too much with real life horrors/sadness, and it makes it very difficult for me to read a lot of nonfiction. That being said, Into Thin Air is one of my all-time favorite books!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally understand, but there’s a lot more in non fiction besides tragedy. I love art books and funny memoirs because of that 🙂 I just looked into Into Thin Air, sounds really good so thank you for mentioning it!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lovely post!! I just got the Disaster Artist and I’m so looking forward to reading it. I wish more bloggers I follow talk more about non-fic. I definitely read more fiction than non-fic, but I do enjoy non-fic. That princesses book looks great, I’ve added it to Goodreads 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I looooved the Disaster Artist 😀 I hope you read it soon, I would love to discuss that book with someone! It was so interesting, Tommy Wiseau is a very strange man and Greg Sestero seems very charming. I’m glad the princesses book caught your eye, it’s a nice book if you read a story or two a day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Great post, Esther! I’ve been diving more and more into non-fiction lately, I find it to be a nice reprieve from fiction every now and then. My favourite ones are memoirs, and especially those which can make me laugh. A few favourites include The Happiness Project and Furiously Happy. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you! ❤ Also thanks for the recommendations, I added them both to my TBR because they sound fantastic. I had seen Furiously Happy around but I never knew what it was about!
      You're right. It's nice to read something different once in a while and non-fiction can provide that 🙂

      Like

  9. Thanks for this post. I alwas like to say I’ll read more non fiction books, but then I always say it like I’ll do it sometime in the future and enjoy my fiction novels for some time more before starting a non fiction book.
    But I do own some good non fiction that are on my tbr for some time so I do plan to get to them, I guess I just need something to push me to grab them and start them.
    I own In Order To Live for example and I am truly interested in it, I just haven’t picked it up yet.

    I really like how you talked about non fiction.
    Even if I don’t read that genre often, I do like to see book bloggers talking and reviewing non fiction books bc I feel like book blogging is a sea of fiction, which is not a bad thing, but I’d like to see non fiction more talked about,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m so happy that you enjoyed this post. I feel the same way and I also wish to see more non-fiction going around the bloggosphere 😛
      I hadn’t heard of In Order to Live! I immediately added it to my TBR.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s like they live in the whole new world, and we can’t even see what’s happening there. Tbh, that’s the main reason why I bought that book – to read about that country bc I know nothing, and what we do hear, we can’t be sure if it’s true or not.
        So terrible, but yet fascinating in some way.

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  10. I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction to be fair- but this actually doesn’t come from fear of the unknown, but fear of the known aka I’ve read a lot of it, particularly at uni and it was really boring. I can sometimes enjoy memoirs though. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love non-fiction, especially true crime – I have like a whole shelf on my bookshelf that’s just dedicated to that sub genre. I also like ones about ancient history and myths/legends. I definitely want to try and branch out in non-fiction too and read more memoirs. Just like fiction I much prefer to read non-fiction books that are about darker subjects.

    Princesses Behaving Badly and The Monster of Florence are both on my TBR! I can’t wait to get to them!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s pretty cool! Do you have a favorite or one that you’d recommend to me? 🙂
      I also want to read more historical non-fiction books, but I don’t know where to start.

      Like

  12. This is a really great post! I think the reason why I stay away from non-fiction is that I have far too many fiction books waiting for me and I keep choosing them, haha. Also, non-fiction feels too much like required reading for me. But that’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed any non-fiction books. My personal favorite is “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom. I also love memoirs, but it’s hard for me to spot them in my local bookstores. The most recent one I’ve read is “The Road to Nab End” by William Woodruff, which I picked up from a sale. I really loved it and I’m hoping to read more of the genre soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Memoirs are fantastic. I recently read The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer and it’s so interesting. I’m not even a fan of her and a lot of the times I don’t even agree with her, but getting a look into her life it’s something I truly appreciated. Also, she gave some nice insights into what goes behind asking, the vulnerability of it all. It was inspiring. I have to check the ones you mentioned.

      Liked by 1 person

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